Friday, November 27, 2009

Ten Commandments of Christmas

What a fabulous Thanksgiving!  My family gathered for the turkey day trinity of family, food and football!  All three gave me much to be thankful for and certainly gave me strength for today...Black Friday!  Okay, I wasn't one of the super industrious shoppers that started at midnight in my pajamas or camped out in front of a store to be one of the lucky few to get what ever the most sought-after yet very limited gift of this season may be, but I did spend some time bargain hunting for just the right gifts for all those on my list.

Tomorrow we'll climb into the attic to retrieve the Christmas decorations and begin "decking our halls."  Or should I be addressing the cards or wrapping gifts or making the menus? Oh...there is so much to do, and it is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations that we forget the real importance of this season.

A while ago, I came across the "Ten Commandments for Christmas."  Simple ideas that help me keep the spirit of Christmas central to our family celebrations.  I hope they help you make the most of this glorious season.

Ten Commandments for Christmas

1. Thou shalt prepare early: Don’t wait until the last minute to get into the Christmas spirit.

2. Thou shalt keep Christ at the center of Christmas: Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by the commercialism of the season. Resolve to read one of the gospels during December, and meditate upon what it means that Christ came into the world.

3. Thou shalt make Christmas a family time: Do things together. Decorate the tree, play games, bake cookies, shop, write cards, have devotionals, go caroling, attend church together.

4. Thou shalt remember those who are less fortunate: Contribute significantly to an organization serving the needs of others throughout the year. Give a Christmas gift to your church.

5. Thou shalt give thyself with every gift: Put some thought into the gifts you purchase. Give a gift that represents you. If possible, make something instead of buying something.

6. Thou shalt learn to be a good receiver: Many of us have trouble receiving graciously and gracefully.

7. Thou shalt put music into Christmas : Buy several Christmas CD’s and play them again and again. Attend church choir cantatas and special Christmas programs. Sing carols with loved ones.

8. Thou shalt slow down: Remember Christmas is supposed to be a season of peace, not hypertension.

9. Thou shalt remember to worship. The church is the place you are most likely to be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas.

10. Thou shalt receive Christ into thy life: Don’t just talk about the Christ of Christmas; receive Him into your life as Lord and Savior.

--Author Unknown

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It's Happening in the Neighborhood!

Since school started, life here in Lake Travis has been so busy, I feel as if I've been running from one thing to the next!  Okay, so if you know me, you know that I don't run, but I do walk, and I would like to encourage you to join me as I make my way to some of the many wonderful events happening right here in the Lake Travis Community this Saturday.  You can get fit, shop and dine all for your benefit and for the good of your Lake Travis friends.

You can start your day in a healthy way by participating in the 4th Annual Shake a Leg at the Lake.  This fun community event benefits Lakeway's Parks and Recreation Department and the Mayor's Fitness Council of Lakeway.  You can participate at the fitness level that best suits you.  Beginning at 8:30 am you can enjoy a 1 Mile Mosey, or if you are feeling more adventurous, the recreational and competitive 5K runs begin at 9:00am.  For the first time this year, there is a 10K route through scenic Rough Hollow for the really outgoing athletes!  This event is for your entire family. For registration and details visit

Once you've cooled off, attend the first ever Friends of the Library Holiday Craft Sale benefitting the Lake Travis Community Library. The sale will be held this Saturday from 10a.m. - 2p.m. at 2300 Lohman's Spur, Suite 100 - just outside the library. Choose among many different one-of-a-kind handmade items such as jewelry, scarves, belts, purses, quilts, holiday cards, candles, home decor and more.  A special selection of gift and craft books will also be available.  This is a wonderful opportunity to get a jump on buying unique Christmas gifts for your family and friends while supporting the Library. So come visit the Lake Travis Community Library this Saturday and check it out! 

To wrap up a wonderful day, make your way over to the Lakeway Activity Center for the 2009 Lake Travis Food and Wine Show.  Sponsored by Two Hot Mama's Salsa from 5pm - 9pm on Saturday, you can sample fine cuisine and delectable drinks from restaurants and wineries in the Lake Travis community.  Area retailers will also provide a sneak preview of some of the seasons most wonderful holiday gifts.  Entertainment will be provided by the Lake Travis High School Jazz Band, and local chefs will provide cooking demonstrations.  Bring your family and friends and enjoy a relaxing evening where you can casually mingle, taste, and enjoy fabulous entertainment!  Door prizes will be given away every hour during the show, and a portion of the proceeds benefit the Lake Travis High School Jazz Ensemble.  There will be something for everyone!  Advance online discount tickets are available at Tickets at the door $20-Adults (21 and older), $10-Young Adults, $3-Children (11 and under).

The perfect ending to your weekend or a great beginning for your week is the Thanksgiving Benefit Concert on Sunday, November 15th at 2:30pm at the Lake Travis United Methodist Church.  This community concert benefits the Lake Travis Crisis Ministries and features the choirs of LTUMC, The Lakeway Church and Emmaus Catholic Church.  The concert will also feature the handbell ensembles from LTUMC and Lakeway Church, a combined youth choir from LTUMC and Lakeway Church, and guest instrumentalists Lori Maillart (flute), Alicebeth Trappe (trumpet), CJ Menge and Matt Ehler (percussion).   The Lake Travis Crisis Ministries provides assistance to people in need in the Lake Travis area.  100% of your donation at the concert will be given to the Crisis Ministries.  Come enjoy an afternoon of beautiful music while supporting your neighbors in need.

I hope to see you running around the neighborhood this weekend...Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Make a Difference (every) Day!

This coming Saturday, October 24th is Make a Difference Day. It is the national day of helping others started by USA Weekend Magazine 19 years ago. Last year, 3 million people volunteered in their communities making a difference for their neighbors in need. This year I challenge each of us to make a difference on not just one day, but every day of the year. Quite a challenge or an opportunity, depending on how you look at it. Many of you already influence those in our community by volunteering, so now I ask you to encourage those around you, especially your children, to join you in giving of your time, resources and talents to those in need.

This summer, as part of our "Girls Just Want to Have Fun Camp," my daughter and her friends spent a day volunteering. They began the day making dozens of cookies and cards to be delivered to residents of the Vista Oaks Retirement Center in Lakeway. The girls had a wonderful, although somewhat messy, time in the kitchen and made some fabulous memories delivering the handmade goodies and visiting with the residents.

Later that afternoon, the girls took groceries they had collected from their friends and neighbors to the Lake Travis Crisis Ministries food pantry. They worked with food pantry volunteers, Helen Howard and Dorothy Boddeker, stocking the shelves and getting bags ready for the LT Crisis Ministry clients. Although it was a busy and tiring day, it is my hope that the seed for helping others was planted, and that by providing the girls more volunteer opportunities and much encouragement, they will grow their own altruistic spirit.

So how do you make your difference felt within our community on a daily basis? Sometimes it's as easy as a sharing a smile with the clerk at the dry cleaners, speaking a kind word to the harried mother at the grocery store, or extending a helping hand to an elderly neighbor. Sometimes however, the needs are greater. In fact, you may not be aware that there are many, maybe even too many peoople in need right here in Lake Travis.

Our LTISD schools , community libraries and churches always have a need for volunteers to help with a variety of projects and programs. If you are looking to share your time, these are very good places to start.

On November 1st, many folks will be participating in the Susan G. Koman Race for the Cure. I'm even thinking about walking for the first time myself this year! I have several friends that have walked in years past, and have raised funds to support the effort for more cancer research. If this sounds like a match for you, perhaps I will see you at the starting line!

If you have a passion for the homeless, contact Mobile Loaves and Fishes to see how you can get involved. Do you speak Spanish? If so, you may be just the person that Principios Chiquitos Hispanic Ministries through the Lake Travis United Methodist Church is looking for to join their English as a second language program for families in our area. Supporting our troops may be what inspires you to volunteer. Operation Interdependence may be your place to make a difference. The group meets once a month at the Lakeway Church to pack boxes to be sent to our service men and women.

These are just some of the volunteer opportunities available in our area. Heed the call to make a difference by helping others. Make it a priority in your life and your family's life to reach beyond your comfort zone, extend the boundaries of your circle to include those that are not yet your friends, and encourage each other to use your unique talents, resources and gifts to better the lives of those in need.

Never doubt that you have much to give. Listen to your heart and find a place where you can make a difference in the Lake Travis Community every day!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Don't Let This Happen to Your Child...Again!

You've seen them and wondered, what happened? Ellen Degeneres has a gallery of them on her website. You may even have one that has been haunting you since the second grade. A few of them even make you laugh until you can't breathe. But now that you're a parent, you want to protect your child from the horror of...the bad school picture!

This year, instead of paying a small fortune for a package of photos sight unseen, let me suggest an alternative. For the next week, Alicebeth Photography, a Lake Travis area photographer, is offering custom school photos for a very reasonable price.

I took advantage of this offer last school year and took home three different poses of my daughter that were beautiful! The only difficult part was deciding which photos I wanted. I was delighted to have pictures of my daughter in a natural outdoor setting...not against a painted backdrop or leaning against a fake fence post. She was also comfortable and having fun which really allowed Alicebeth to capture her unique personality and a genuine smile.

These photo packages cost $45 and include 3 "units" of the same pose or you can create your own package for $20/unit with 1 pose per unit. Minimum purchase is due at the time of the appointment. All images will be posted on line within 3 days of your session, and will be accessible with a private password. Appointments for this special offer are only available on the following dates and locations.

Tuesday, September 29th; Hamilton Greenbelt

Thursday, October 1st; Lakeway City Park

Monday, October 5th; Bee Cave Park (behind the police dept.)

Tuesday, October 6th; Lakeway City Park

If these dates seem to be coming too quick for you, then I'm sure you don't even want to think about how fast Christmas will be coming. Mark your calendars for the week of Oct. 12 -18th when Alicebeth Photography will be offering special Christmas Card photo sessions.

With so many photographers available in our area, not to mention those of us with our own digital cameras, why should you choose Alicebeth Photography? The photographs truly speak for themselves.

So dont' let the bad school photo happen to your child again this year. Call Alicebeth Photography, 512-775-8657, and schedule your appointment today!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Tutor is a Good Friend

I don't know about you, but for me life has been like a whirlwind since school started. Although we tried to get back into our school days routine before the first bell rang, it has taken us a couple of weeks to really get back into the swing of things. Even though we're only into the first few weeks of school, there already seems to be many important events requiring my attendance.

Over the last couple weeks, Lake Travis ISD held "Curriculum Nights." These events gave parents the opportunity to meet their children's teachers and get an idea of what academic objectives and goals are for the year, and how you can help your child be successful. Next week teacher conferences begin. In these meetings, you will get more specific information regarding your child. Make it a point to attend these meetings, be on time and come prepared with your questions and concerns as each conference is only scheduled to last for 15 minutes.

So after gathering information from Curriculum Night and the teacher conference you're confident that you know what to expect from the curriculum and you've opened the lines of communication with your child's teacher. Good start, right? But why is homework becoming a daily nightmare, and your child is studying, but not getting the grades that reflect that work, or worst of all, your child has lost their love for learning? Yikes! Now where do you turn to help your child get the most out of their education? Okay, don't panic and don't be embarrassed, but your child may need...a tutor!

There are many options for tutors in our area from "chain" learning centers to individuals. You know your child, and you ultimately know what is best for your child. Interview potential tutors like you would any employee, get references and most importantly, call those references before you make your decision. When our daughter needed assistance, we chose Guyla Rollins-Gaudet, M. Ed of Education is Life. Although already a good student, our daughter really excelled once she started working with Mrs. Gaudet. She helped her develop effective study skills while she also gave her support and confidence in addition to what we gave her as parents. Our daughter now had another adult on her side and in her corner!

When selecting a qualified tutor for your child, consider these questions formulated by Guyla Rollins-Gaudet before making your decision.

1. Where are the tutorial sessions held? It is ineffective for a tutor to hold tutorial sessions in any public setting such as a library, bookstore or coffee shop. Sessions must be distraction free, as most students who are struggling to learn often have attention difficulties. A busy environment is not conducive to learning. In a public setting, students feel more inhibited to ask questions. The primary goal of individualized tutorials is for the tutor to establish a rapport with the student and the student's success depends on the critical component. Also, people tend to eavesdrop and personal information becomes public when shared in a public setting.

Although is might be more convenient to have a tutor come to your home, a qualified tutor will have their own setting where materials are available. Tutors who assess and reassess student needs must have resources such as supplemental materials, a computer and copy machine readily available, and these resources are not always available in a home or public environment.

2. Are the sessions truly individual? Some tutors actually work with students in groups, yet still charge the individual hourly rate. Group sessions are ineffective for most students. Generally, in a group, the tutor will teach to the group, individual student needs are overlooked, and therefore, the small group setting mimics a classroom setting. At times, one student may monopolize the tutor's time and the other group members are minimally helped.

3. Does the tutor have a record of success? Ask for references. Remember your child's long-term educational success depends on you choosing a tutor with a proven record. Seek out those who have been in business for a long time. Tutoring is a labor of love and skill. Many people attempt to do it, but only those who are truly dedicated, knowledgeable, and committed to children and families continue over the long term.

4. How does the tutor measure progress? Great tutors are diagnosticians who measure the progress of students continuously through the use of informal assessments, portfolios and other means. They also adjust to each child's learning style.

5. Does the person have a vision for my child's long term educational needs? Look for a tutor who has some broad educational experiences and understands the needs of students, kindergarten through college.

6. Is there follow-up homework for skills taught? To reinforce skills taught during tutorials, a student should be given supplemental materials for homework.

A few other things to keep in mind when selecting the right tutor for your child.

1. Educate yourself and read about tried and true educational methods that are research based.

2. If your child is having difficulty reading, early intervention is imperative. Don't be mislead into thinking that your child will "outgrow" this stage.

3. A tutor can be a tremendous help for those students that need to improve their writing skills. Writing is a process and it is very difficult for classroom teachers to teach writing in a large group setting. Student's writing skills tend to improve when they are in a carefree setting with no time restrictions.

4. Be cautious of tutors who encourage daily tutorials in a short period of time to "fix" a problem, or those who offer daily tutorials a few days prior to SAT/ACT testing. Skills are acquired over time.

What is most important to remember when choosing a tutor for your child is that you know your child best and ultimately what is best for him or her.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Just Around the Corner

I can't really believe it. In fact, I'm in a semi-state of denial that summer is almost over. Of course here in Central Texas, the heat will hold on for at least another couple of months, but school starts in less than two weeks. Are you ready? Here are a few tips and resources to help you and your kids prepare to head back to school!

School Supplies and Clothing: One thing I try to do with my kids is take an inventory of what we have, what still fits, and what needs mending or stain removal...before I buy anything new. Anything that doesn't make the cut goes into a bag to be donated to charity, and then we go shopping. Now just this morning, I heard about some families that actually do an exchange. They gather the clothing, shoes and accessories that they no longer want or need and exchange them with their friends. This way your kids can have something that is "new" to them without you having to spend lots of money. Another option is to skip the department stores altogether and shop at thrift or consignment stores. In our neighborhood, the Lake Travis Thrift Shop will gladly take your donations (that support several local charities,) and you might even pick up a "new to you" outfit for significantly less than a department store. You can also take your gently used children's items to Sweet Peas Consignment Store. The store owner will assess the value of your items and either give you cash or store credit once the items sell.

Another back-to-school savings idea is to take advantage of the sales tax-free weekend on August 21 - 23. You can check this link to see the items that qualify:

Re-establishing a Routine: If your family is like mine, we've been taking advantage of the long summer days and staying up late and waking up really late. So that it's not such a rude awakening when the alarm clock rings on the first day of school, we start easing back into our school year bedtime routine. About a week before school starts, we begin moving bedtime up in 15 minute increments each day until we reach our normal bedtime. We also start setting the alarm clock for a morning wake up call. Hopefully within the week we are settling into our school schedule. When setting your child's bedtime, remember that most children and teens require 9-10 hours of sleep for proper growth and development.

Getting Organized: Every school year I vow once again to be organized. I know that starting out organized can certainly help my child have a successful academic year. I also know that I need all the help I can get in this area! This summer I discovered This site is an excellent resource for parents who want to help their children thrive in school. You will find tips, strategies, and tools to get your child's - and your life - in order. The site is categorized by age groups to give specific tips for doing homework, encouraging reluctant readers, and reviewing math skills as well as healthy nutrition and exercise information.

Ready or Not, here it comes! I have to admit that I'm not quite ready to give up my late nights and even later mornings, flexible schedule, and spontaneous fun, but the first day of school is just around the corner. It's time to get ready!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

That's Italian

As an Italian girl, I'm pretty particular about Italian restaurants. The best ones remind me of the comfort of family and the delicious meals served in my grandmother's kitchen in Queens, New York. The Hill Country Pasta House is such a restaurant. In fact, when my very Italian family came to visit, I took them to the Pasta House and they loved it. So do I!

The menu offers a combination of traditional favorites like lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, and wood-fired brick oven pizza, with salads, grilled steaks, chicken and seafood for those watching their carbs. For more variety, a southwestern flare is infused in dishes like Tequila Chicken, Baked Portobello and Ancho Pecan Chicken. Your children can choose traditional kid fare like mozzarella sticks, chicken tenders, pasta and pizza or try the grilled chicken or salmon. There really is something for everyone served here.

While the food alone makes this restaurant worthy of spending some of those dwindling dining-out dollars, it is the warm, comfortable atmosphere and friendly environment that will make it one of your favorite places for a family meal. The service is attentive and the atmosphere is family friendly...without feeling like your eating in a kid's play park.

There's one more thing I want you to know about the Pasta House. They are terrific members of the community. In addition to catering many events around town, they have sponsored a cooking school for elementary aged children through LTISD. This year, my soon to be fifth grader attended and absolutely loved it! The kids not only learned to cook, but to serve and to work together. The camp was topped off by a lovely lunch served by the students. Brian and his staff took the time to note something special about each child and share that with the families.

The Hill Country Pasta House has been a part of this community for 18 years and with all the growth in the area, it is sometimes easy to by pass the tried and true. So if it has been a while since you have been, make it a point to go. With daily lunch specials, Sunday Brunch, family dinners to go and wonderful events for adults and children, you will love spending some time in a warm and wonderful Italian home...The Hill Country Pasta House.

For more information, check out their website